Frederick Denison Maurice

The Quest for Unity

"'I seldom go to church,' said Falconer; 'but when I do, I come here: and always feel that I am in the presence of one of the holy servants of God's great temple not made with hands. I heartily trust that man. He is what he seems to be.'" This description of the preacher in David Elginbrod is George MacDonald's tribute to his friend and mentor F. D. Maurice, arguably the most important Anglican theologian of the 19th century.

MacDonald was present at Maurice's inaugural address at the Manchester Working Men's College, and one of his first jobs after leaving Arundel was as a lecturer there. Maurice read Phantastes in manuscript and helped MacDonald to find a publisher. In 1865, after their move to London, the MacDonalds started attending St. Peter's church in Vere Street, where Maurice was the rector, and as a result of his influence eventually became members of the Church of England.

Maurice had not been brought up in the Anglican Church. In fact, he had been born and raised a Unitarian and for a time in adolescence had been strongly influenced by his mother's growing Calvinism. Perhaps partly because of the painful religious division within his own family, he longed for a truth that transcended human-made systems. He wrote later, "The desire for Unity has haunted me all my life through."

The book for which he is most remembered, The Kingdom of Christ (1838), combines an extreme theological openness with an exalted view of the church. Nearly every denomination or Christian group has some of the truth, he argued, but no one should confuse his own theological perspective with the whole truth. Christians are united in Christ, not in certain ideas about Christ.

For Maurice, the church ...

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